On-Demand Economy and Quality of Service
The fast food burger chain with a cult following, In-N-Out recently filed a lawsuit against DoorDash, the on-demand food delivery service. In-N-Out is concerned how their trademark is used and that customers are led to believe they will get the same food experience as if In-N-Out delivered the food. The core part of the claim is at the end of this post.
It caught my interest, not only because I am a fan of In-N-Out and visit them whenever on the West Coast of the US (Exhibit A below), but because it highlights the challenges companies that act as intermediaries between brands and consumers face.
Sure, they can build partnerships and get permission first to offer a product/service offered by someone else, but in the raise to get big fast (concept on which @dhh has a nice view here) most will just ‘borrow’ logos and send their drivers in to collect and deliver whatever the end customer has bought.
And that IS a problem, and I do think it is reasonable for In-N-Out, after repeated attempts trying to get DoorDash in dialogue, to now go to court.
The thing is: Consumers forget there are intermediaries, and quickly will call In-N-Out over cold burgers, soggy fries or orders that were wrong (driver mixes deliveries up, is gone by time food bag is opened, etc.). Then consumers start to complain on social media and In-N-Out has a problem they cannot fix and that they did not create.
Cases like these are important because we have to remember the decades and careful effort that went into creating brands and experiences like In-N-Out. We can not let startups barely years old, ruin that in their quest to become the next Unicorn or satisfy their investors’ need for quick returns.
From In-N-Out lawsuit against DoorDash:
Defendant’s use of Plaintiff’s famous trademarks implies that Defendant not only delivers In-N-Out products to its customers, but that the quality and services offered by Defendant is the same as if consumers had made purchases directly from Plaintiff. Upon information and belief, the quality of services offered by Defendant does not at all comport with the standards that consumers expect from Plaintiff’s goods and services. Further, Plaintiff has no control over the time it takes Defendant to deliver Plaintiff’s goods to consumers, or over the temperature at which the goods are kept during delivery, nor over the food handling and safety practices of Defendant’s delivery drivers. While Plaintiff adheres to the Food Code, on information and belief, Defendant does not adhere to such regulations, including with regard to compliance with required food safety and handling practices.